What a win.
After gaining a 17 point advantage in the first half, the Chicago Bulls slowly dug themselves out of the hole as D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson provided a much needed spark off the bench. The Bulls gained an advantage of their own against the Washington Wizards late in the second half and it looked like Chicago would tie the series up at home before heading to the nation’s capital this Friday.
Well needless to say, that didn’t happen.
Bradley Beal has been clutch all season long and the Wizards have relied on him down the stretch in the past. His ability to create shots for himself and find open shots from the perimeter left Chicago’s elite defense in disarray, as he knocked down multiple key shots in the fourth quarter, including a three point bomb over Joakim Noah that brought Washington back within 3 points. Beal also hit a ridiculously high arcing floater to tie the game up in the period. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to hit a game-winning opportunity with just seconds remaining in the contest.
Once Bradley Beal got going, Nene started to drain shots over the Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. He hit two crucial jump shots late in the game, giving Washington a 4 point lead in overtime. Those plays would eventually be negated by a few controversial calls, but the Washington Wizards went on to win the game after Kirk Hinrich missed two free throws to tie the game up in overtime.
John Wall wasn’t spectacular, but he did have a stretch that really boosted the Wizards before the end of the first half. Wall got comfortable with his mid-range shot and knocked down a few very tough looks, including an and-1 jumper over Hinrich in the second quarter. Wall wasn’t able to sustain his hot shooting, but he did finish the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Though he didn’t have a magnificent game, I thought he managed his play very well. Luckily for Wall, Bradley Beal really stepped up and finished the game with 26 points and 7 rebounds. Remember when we were worried about Beal’s size prior to the 2012 NBA Draft? Well, he’s become a pretty darn good rebounder for a shooting guard.
Washington didn’t make their free throws, and though it was concerning, they didn’t seem to hang their heads after missing a few crucial ones. They made just 16 of their 28 attempts, but bench contributions from Andre Miller and Martell Webster helped the Wizards regain the lead. They combined for 18 points off the bench.
The Wizards have now put themselves in position to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, as long as they take care of home court. Washington hasn’t gotten too confident and it’s easy to notice that in their persistent style of play. Whenever the Bulls made a run, the Wizards remained composed and weathered the storm. Joakim Noah and D.J. Augustin were both outstanding, but the Wizards simply have better scoring options and that may be the difference in the series.
Washington will now head back to the nation’s capital with a 2-0 series lead against the Bulls. The national audience is finally starting to open their eyes to the emerging Wizards.